Tag Archives: planning

Week 89: Social Security Preparations

Monday, 16 October 2017

This past week has been busy – birthday time!  Cake, breakfast, cake, pie, pad thai, dinner, cake, and birthday party.  Considering all the festivities, I only gained 2 pounds.  It’s been so much fun!  And, after talking with a family member during a party, I came to the realization that some of us are in total avoidance about our futures, even more than I realized.

I was always the person who, like Scarlett O’Hara, always said, “Tomorrow is another day.”  It’s true – tomorrow is always another day.  But tomorrow needs to be acknowledged and planned for.  There are some things we can control – like how much we spend and on what – and there are other things we can prepare for – such as natural disasters and old age.  Natural disasters can occur any time, but old age follows a logical sequence, like 1, 2, 3.  It’s the “tomorrow” syndrome that catches up with us.

In the US, one makes an appointment, or does it online, for Medicare.  There are multiple stages for Medicare.  The first one to sign up for, if you are still working, is Part A, which is hospitalization.  It’s completely free.  If you are still working, then it works in conjunction with your hospital coverage and your private insurance (if you have it).  Later, when you know when you plan to retire, you apply for Part B, for which there is a co-pay.  This is for office visits and, I think, prescriptions.  In order to get it after 66, without a 10% penalty, you must show evidence of employer-based insurance.  For me, this means through my job, or through my husband’s job.  It is not through retirement-sponsored healthcare.

My understanding is that you must apply for Medicare Part A three months on either side of your 65th birthday.  I made an appointment on August 18th at the local Social Security office, and by mid-September, my card arrived.  A 30-minute appointment.  I got a print out of everything, and now it is in a file drawer.  (Aside, I probably should digitize it.)

At my birthday party this weekend, I found out that another family member, also just 65 in July, did not apply for Medicare Part A.  Not at all . . . why?  That is the big question.  What is it that kept him from doing this?  Denial?  A dislike of the government?  Avoidance?  Eventually his wife made him do it online, I think within the required time frame, but he never got a card . . . so what happened?  Too late?  Digital issues?

Regardless, this was a serious issue in my eyes.  The irresponsibility of it all is what I see.  And from that, I had to look inward.  We have been irresponsible in many ways, but are on the road to fixing that through efforts that seem like the labors of Hercules at times.  It is this sense of being young forever that keeps many of us in denial.  I also think it is a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, too – a sense of having no control.

Being frugal means thinking ahead, giving up the present to work for the future.  Our parents can lay a foundation, or not lay a foundation.  It is us – me – the individual – who has to make the choice to be frugal and debt-free.  Being married to a frugal partner helps, but not having one creates challenges financially and personally.  Many marriages suffer because of money.  Ours certainly did – and at times still does – but the big picture is showing payoff as we move along the time line of working off our debts.  Our net worth has increased, our debt has decreased.  At times we feel like we are in limbo.  But we still move forward on our journey – not evenly – but steadily.

Now that I am closer to retirement, in hindsight, I wish I had done more planning.  Like my family member, I was in denial.  If I hadn’t taken the reins awhile ago, we would be in worse shape, always waiting for tomorrow, planning to do it tomorrow.  Tomorrow is now today.  Luckily, I am not in as bad as shape as others.



Monday 116: Researching the Retirement Puzzle

Monday, 17 April 2017

With the idea of retirement in a couple of years, my focus is on our finances in the form of paying off bills, but it is also on preparing for the economics of retirement.  Specifically:  How much retirement income can I expect?  To get to the point where I can sit down with my retirement fund representatives, I need to take a class that is all about the requirements and benefits and so many other things.  That is on the agenda over the next several weeks.  I will do the one online rather than a group class as it fits my schedule better.

Unlike many people, I have good retirement available to me, but in my own lifetime, I have seen the benefits begin to decrease.  I have fewer benefits than people who began before me, and those coming after have even less.

It is really important to know what lies ahead in the retirement world.  How much income?  What kind of health benefits?  Medicare costs?  Time lines?  The fact is, retirement in the US is a costly and complex process, and for many, it means a drop into instant poverty.

With women still making less than men, it is especially important for women to look ahead, and to plan ahead.  I had an auntie, born in 1903, who died at 90.  She planned.  When she died, she had $500,000.00 in the bank and a ton of stock in GE, where she had worked since the 1920s.  This is a woman who did plan ahead, and she did well considering her education stopped at the end of the 8th grade.

So, that is my research over the next few months – finding out about my retirement plan, my social security, and when I need to enroll in Medicare, even if I won’t need it since I will be under Mr. 182’s insurance.

Planning ahead requires doing research, coming up with plans, and deciding what to do.  Having alternate plans is also strategically important because everything is subject to change without notice!



Monday 119: A Week Off

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Late by a day!  Currently, the 182s are enjoying a week off.

The last week of March is a traditional break from work for many involved in education.  Here, it is no different.  The only difference is what we plan to do!

Cheap thrills are the answer!  There is much to do, with little if any cost, in most areas.  We live close to a major city – if you call 50 miles close – but there is a lot to do just locally, or sort of locally.  Besides doing things by going somewhere for entertainment, things around the house can also be squared away, like cleaning the refrigerator, or other chores that require a bit more focus.

Community publications and other resources often are a great way to find things to do.  Locally, we have magazines which are free to the public because they are supported by advertisers.  Everyone wins!  Categories include things specific to age groups, and then by subject.  From my favorite local publication, topic headings include:

  • Theatre
  • Fine Arts & Crafts Fairs
  • Arts
  • Art Education
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Garden Events
  • Events (in general)
  • Family Hikes
  • Baby Boomer Generation
  • Lectures & Education
  • Pets
  • Hobbies & Clubs
  • Be Entertained by Nature
  • Sports
  • Bike Riding
  • Health & Fitness

Besides local publications, Meetup is another way to find groups with interests matching your own.

Entertainment is a big source of pleasure for people.  Cultural events, family events, get-togethers.  All these enrich our lives.

Connections with people are very important, and more so, I think, as we grow older.  Children leave the family home and the empty nest syndrome sets in.  Many women find themselves flopping around, at a loss of what to do.  Men who have worked all their lives frequently have no idea how to spend their free time after retirement.  Older people, who are outliving their friends, become increasingly isolated.  Extended families are scattered throughout the country, and often the world, so those connections begin to diminish.

We ourselves are approaching such a time in our lives.  We are planning financially, but we also need to “practice” retirement.  How do we fill our time with meaningful activities?  Such activities have to have meaning for the individual, not necessarily the rest of the world.  Personal accomplishments and satisfaction are the center of such, and can lead to outward expansion.  For many, retirement means a lot of time – how to use it?  how to use it and not just fill it?

Retirement requires more than financial forethought.  It means understanding what is of value to you.

Retirement requires practice, and what better time to practice than before the performance?

Monday 178: Seeds for the Future

Choices_(9639918937)Monday, 1 February 2016

Planning ahead is something I am good at, if I want a vacation.  I research places to stay and things to do.  In fact, I am always ready with Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D.

But, it has never occurred to me that I am really rotten at making long term – really long term – decisions.

This is why we are in this financial mess.  We can “handle it” but can we “afford” it?

No, we cannot afford it.  We cannot afford it short term or long term.  Neither of us tend to really have any great stick-to-it-iveness, and have a “take care of it tomorrow” attitude.  We could blame it on mom and dad, but that is so lame.  Let’s just lay the blame on ourselves and move forward.

Short Term, Long Term

There really is a big difference in mindsets here.  Tomorrow is so near, it is easy to think about.  We need groceries, let’s plan tomorrow’s trip.

I want to retire in 179 more Mondays.  That is long term thinking.  Really long term thinking.  LIke, thinking about infinity.  That takes discipline.  It means saying “no, we cannot buy that right now” when the other half wants a particular bottle of whisky on sale.”  It means saying “no, we cannot afford that right now” when I want to get a really great camera at a really great price.

LIke I said in an earlier post, “No” has a lot of power.

“No” to unnecessary spending.

“Yes” has a lot of power, but it is, in some ways, harder to do when the goal is in a galaxy far, far away.

 “Yes” to necessary saving.  “Yes” to remembering the goals.  “Yes” to the future in a way I probably cannot imagine.

February Finances

And what does February bring?  It brings a pay raise for me, a substantial one.   And a pay raise for the other half, and a bonus.

This means more money every month, and it also means that it would be so, so easy to slide into spending it.  Now is the time to really think about things . . . and to keep a lid on it, too.  And say “no” and say “yes.”

 These are seeds for the future.  It is up to us to see if they take root and bloom.